PICU team surpasses five years without central line infection

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Photo by Ryan Wilson featuring PICU team members Kurt Brothers, Sheila O’Leary and Kathleen Higgins.

Five years of anything is a pretty remarkable record when you think about it. Looking at it one way, that’s 60 months. Or you could think of it in days. The last five years has been 1,826 days. Could you hold a record for that long in something? Not breaking for even a single day? Not even for a single minute?

IWK’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) team has just surpassed five years without a single central line associated blood stream infections (CLABSI) on the unit. Not one. On an intensive care unit where patients are already acutely ill, an infection is a must-avoid issue. But that’s easier said than done. The majority of PICU patients have at least one central line, and often more than one, during their admission to hospital.

“Most of our patients are acutely ill which is why they are in PICU,” says Denise MacIntyre, clinical leader of operations, PICU. “An infection from a line increases their risk of longer hospital stays, more acute care is required, as well as increased mortality and morbidity.”

With a team that tops 50 people all working varying shifts in different roles, treating different patients and diverse conditions constantly, achieving this milestone took incredible dedication and consistency.

“We’re constantly accessing our central lines. This requires a tremendous amount of caution to ensure we’re following all infection prevention and control guidelines. I’ve worked in PICU for close to nine years, so it is quite impressive that more than half of my career on the unit has been CLABSI-free.” says Alex O’Hanley, interim clinical leader of development, PICU. “All team members must work together to monitor infection prevention practices while conducting these procedures.”

MacIntyre adds that “It takes a lot of teamwork. This record really reflects positively on our team’s commitment to following process, especially in times of high census and high acuity.”

Teamwork is one way that PICU has achieved this feat. The other is through their persistent commitment to safety. The team has a robust safety coach program that meets regularly with coaches acting as leaders and change agents in the IWK’s goal to reduce preventable harm. Altogether, the team is focused on system improvement and are all diligent in reporting safety incidents and “near misses.” There is a strong culture of safety throughout the team that is recognized at monthly meetings to discuss patient safety and quality, and how to improve as a unit. This team is willing and keen to acknowledge safety issues and address them head-on.

“PICU staff have always been critical thinkers and strong leaders,” says Barb Ellsmere, interim clinical leader of development, PICU. “We advocate for best practice for our patients and families. Line safety and infection prevention is just one example of this. As a team we are vigilant about maintaining strict adherence infection prevention measures.”

“Congratulations to the entire PICU team for this remarkable achievement—you are international leaders in patient safety.”
—Dr. Doug Sinclair, VP, medicine, quality & safety